Getting product from one machine to the next is as important as any other part of the production process.
The ideal conveyors should be able to do their job with a minimum of maintenance issues. Dan Karpy, president of NeXtconveyor Corp., Tampa, FL, says that a system should be as easy and inexpensive to maintain as possible.
“They need to have the highest degree of disassembly possible in the shortest time with the least requirement for tools that you can achieve,” he says.
One of the company’s newest products is the NeXtgen II Ultra.
“We have eliminated all but four fasteners on the entire conveyor and removed all tubing from the design,” Karpy says.
Restricted access caused by closed conveyor designs is also a concern, says Bryan Ahee, business development manager for IDFI.com, Moville, IA.
“Eighty percent of a food plant’s cleaning time isn’t spent on the belts, but on the conveyor itself, which makes the proper design of the conveyor a critical component of successful sanitation efforts,” he explains.
IDFI.com’s new Super Clean Conveyor was designed without niches, overlapping parts, and other contamination collection points.
There are also long-term benefits to cleanable conveyor systems, says Gary Wemmert, director of business development for Dorner Mfg., Hartland, WI.
“The ability to clean the conveyor every day effectively is probably more important than the initial price,” he says. “A conveyor with a lower price initially might cost them every day when they go to clean it.”
There are a variety of belts available on the marketplace, depending on the requirements of the processor.
“Meat applications for plastic modular belting are very demanding, especially in durability and hygiene,” says Christopher Nigon, president of KVP Inc., Reading, PA. “The appropriate amount of open area must be designed into the belt, and the sprocket engagement must permit effective sanitation washdown.”
KVP recently introduced the Spiral PRO620SPS belt, which can support small food products on a spiral. Along with the belt’s pull and beam strength, it operates with a minimum of product loss or degradation due to product falling into the spaces within the belt as it travels around the spiral.
Uni-chains, Reading, PA, also is making modular belts more cleanable.
“The top side of a belt is normally flat and accessible, so it is relatively easy to clean,” explains Tyson Gabler, project manager. “But the underside contains ‘pockets’ for the sprockets to drive and ‘ribs’ to give the belt strength. Also, the hinges where the belt modules are connected together create areas for bacteria to grow.”
The company offers several belts that address those areas. Bottom ribs have been removed to allow water to flow freely along the bottom of the belt, the underside is sloped to allow water to drain, and hinges are kept closed while the belt is laying flat.
More than modular
Barry Whitman, marketing development manager of Mol Industries, Grand Rapids, MI, says that many conveyor belts tend to have a premature life span in plants.
“A modular belt has to be taken off [the conveyor] to be cleaned to a microbiological level,” he says. “Taking those belts off [regularly] lends those belts to be broken.”
Mol has developed ThermoDrive® homogeneous sprocket-driven belting. It does not harbor bacteria, and there are no parts that can break off. The newest release, the TD-26, is designed to run on 2-inch-diameter sprockets, enabling tight transfers.
Metal conveyor belting, which offers advantages over plastic belting in some applications, says Rick Spiak, director of marketing for Wire Belt Co. of America, Londonderry, NH.
“Plastic belts cannot be used in cooking applications or other applications where there is any significant amount of heat,” he says. “Further, there have been fires on production lines associated with plastic belts, and plastic belts are more difficult, in some cases, to clean and sanitize.”
Wire Belt offers a couple of new products. C-Cure Edge belting, has a closed-loop design in the open-mesh, stainless-steel belts, preventing conveyor snags. EZ-Splice is a pre-formed belt strand that joins two ends of a belt to make it a continuous, closed-belt circuit.
Kerry Smith, product manager, for Ashworth Bros., Winchester, VA, adds that large open areas on the belts can offer quicker freezing of chicken.
“Faster freezing enables high belt speeds and throughput, while significantly reducing bacteria counts in raw, frozen chicken,” Smith says
Ashworth’s Advantage line of hybrid steel-and-plastic spiral and turn-curve conveyor belts offer a wide opening, as well as high beam strength. The open design permits virtually unrestricted access to the belt’s rods and modules, allowing cleaning solutions to flush out food and bacteria. NP
Conveyor and belting suppliers participating in this story include: